Teenage girls who want to play rugby will be able to mix it with the boys for longer, as part of new rule changes to be launched across Australian community rugby.
The ARU has introduced a series of wide-ranging changes for the upcoming season, with the new guidelines underpinning a new safety policy, consulting clubs and schools along the way.
Andrew Larratt, ARU general manager of community rugby and stategy, said the changes were all adopted with safety the top priority.
"All of these changes are designed to maximise safety, participation and inclusion in rugby, so we’re delighted that these policies and procedures will be implemented nationwide for the 2017 season. While many clubs and competitions have already been using similar policies, this new national framework will strengthen our national approach to safety and inclusion in rugby," he said.
“The member unions and Schools rugby bodies have collaborated with us throughout the process of drafting and updating these policies and procedures, and we are very grateful for their valuable input.
“So far, the response from around the country has been extremely positive; it shows the collective will within the Australian Rugby community to ensure all players have the best possible experience when they take the field by always playing in a safe, inclusive and fair environment.”
Australia has fallen in line with a new World Rugby law change allowing girls to play with boys until they’re 15, higher than the previous 12, if there are no other avenues for them to play regularly in their area.
Each player would be assessed by a doctor to recommend which age group they should play in, after submitting a request to continue playing.
Even though women’s sevens teams are popping up across the country, a girl can continue to play mixed XVs over sevens if she so chooses.
State unions will also have the power to mandate a player play in a different age group should a player pose a significant safety risk, though that mandatory move is one the ARU believes would be a rare.
In most circumstances, any movements would be after players, parents or clubs requested a player be moved up or down grades across their competition, a call that will be ultimately made based on a perceived safety risk.
While a players' size would be one of the factors, a players' position would also come into play in that consideration, with the wide-ranging body types on a rugby field.
The governing body has also nationalised the opposite, with players able to play down an age group, should they be on the smaller end of the scale, something particularly pertinent when looking at states that play in two-year divisions - U12s, U14 and U16s - rather than one-year gaps.
Previously, these regulations were state-based, with different unions using a variety of options.
These changes top of the recently announced blue card trial for concussions, a test that will be contingent on ensuring officials are across the concussion symptoms.
That trial kicked off last weekend in the John I Dent Cup, with no blue cards given out in the two games that were played.
For more information on the rule changes and how they apply to your area, go to http://www.aru.com.au/policy.